Today’s featured mystery is Courting Murder, Book 1 in the Judge Rosswell Carew series by Bill Hopkins. This is the first book I’ve read by Hopkins and I chose it because I thought it might be interesting to read a murder mystery featuring a judge rather than a detective, police or private, or a lawyer.
Judge Rosswell is the only judge in a small town in the mountains of Bollinger County, Missouri and is trying to make up for lost time. A recovering alcoholic, Rosswell has been diagnosed with leukemia and part of his routine now is to use his new Nikon to take photos of all the flora and fauna of the county by genus. Today is the first day of his 2-week vacation and he’s hunting down mushrooms; he’s looking forward to snapping shots in the state park and then settling down for a pleasant nap in the countryside, when a certain smell alerts him to two dead bodies.
The author then takes us to the killer(s) planning the murder(s) and the execution. He is careful not to reveal the gender of the killer which keeps the reader guessing all the way through the story. Against the wishes of Sheriff Frizz, Rosswell and his snitch, a sometime criminal element named Ollie, become involved in the investigation. The sheriff’s dispatcher, Tina, Rosswell’s new girlfriend, also becomes involved, and suddenly, the killer’s ominous words to his partner — “after the first execution, the second one gets easier” — come true and all involved become targets.
The ambiguity of the killer’s gender, the arrival of the bikers for the annual Harley Spring Ride — Hogfest, a sudden storm washing the bodies and any possible evidence away from the scene, the appearance of an undercover agent with the Alabama Bureau of Investigation, Tina’s bad reaction to the anesthetic administered when she is operated on, an underground pot garden, and a mysterious, unopened letter, lead the reader through a variety of dicey situations and possible suspects. At the end, we’re left with a teaser that leads us to Book 2 in the series.
A variety of characters — some a bit weird, some with possible motives — keep the plot moving along. Rosswell’s stress from circumstances and lack of sleep keep him from being at his best. A 3rd murder victim and many places in the mountains where there is no cell service complicate matters further. Hopkins has an extensive history in the judicial system of Missouri before becoming a writer which lends authenticity to his story’s forays into the legal niceties involved in a Missouri investigation. This is a light, easy read with lots of twists and turns — a bit slapstick at times; nothing scary. A great book for holiday reading. * * * 1/2
If you, too, are a fan of mysteries, I hope you’ll not only enjoy my Monday posts but will contribute by publishing your own Monday Mystery, mentioning my meme, then come to my blog, comment on your mystery (or mine) briefly, and include the link directly to your mystery review. You can also copy my MMM badge to your post.